By:  Michael Bryant, PGA

We’ve all been around traditional membership types, your full members, your social members, and corporate members. But in hard economic times it is vital to come up with new ways to entice customers to join your clubs. I have had the privilege of working with or around some people who were creative in golf club promotion and these were the ideas we came up with together.

Twilight Play and Practice Membership – Semi Private Club

A course I was working at a while back saw a trend with players and tee times. From 7:30am to 11:30am the course was packed, mainly with members but a few outside groups here and there. From there on, the rest of the day had almost no play. So we decided to do a twilight play and practice membership, which consisted of unlimited use of the practice facility and the golfer paid a flat fee of $25 for unlimited golf after 1pm. The price of the membership obviously depends on where you are in the country and the clientele you are catering to. We decided the price would be about 40% of our full membership. In the first two weeks we signed up over 100 people. The biggest concern with this membership type is will your full members change memberships? Our answer for this question was no, because the course was in the south and the afternoons during most of the year are hot. Almost all of our members stayed with the full membership because they did not want to give up the peak time of day to play.

Players Club – Semi Private Club / Resort

A few years ago I was working at a resort in a vacation destination. During the peak times of year we had plenty of non local play but during the winter it was a struggle to bring in business. The players club consisted of a card that cost $18 and the benefit was to give the local customer $6 off of the local rate. The reason for the $18 is we saw a trend that over 50% of local players played 1 time a year, with the card these customers needed to play 3 times to get their money back. This was a big boost in revenue during our down times and there was almost no risk or cost associated with the card.

Preview Membership

A preview membership is a good idea for a club looking to build members but I doubt it wouldn’t even be considered at the Oakmont’s of the world. It is also a good idea for the winter at a private club to boost revenue. We charged one month’s worth of dues and let the customer be a member for 60 days. This gave them the opportunity to see what the club was about and to make a few friends in the process. Another downfall of this idea is a club who closes for the winter, but you could still pull it off in early spring. Also I suppose something could be said for devaluing the face of the membership but it just depends on how determined you are to drive business and build customer clientele.

A good promoter needs to find which areas of customers the business can improve on. Such as bringing in business during non peak times, and if you have an older membership, try to focus on younger clients. I’m not saying these ideas will work for everyone but hopefully someone can get something out of this article. All I can say is I’ve seen these ideas work for me, hopefully they can work for you.